- You're far from home, and your tow vehicle breaks down.
- You're visiting a new city, and want a local's tips on the best places to eat and the must-see attractions.
- You could fix that busted cabinet door in the living room slide yourself, if only you had access to a garage and tools.
- Your RV thermostat up and died on one of the coldest nights of the year, and you need a warm place to sleep.
These are a few of the many reasons you might want to take advantage of your manufacturer's club benefits by visiting your H.O.T.E.L. No, not the kind with ugly bedspreads and regrettable coffee in the lobby, but the Heartland Owners Travel Emergency List.
And despite the E in the acronym, you can see from the potential scenarios above that your need definitely doesn't have to be 911-level.
How the H.O.T.E.L. was Built
Jim Beletti, Heartland's Director of Owner Interests, explained the history:
In October 2008, Heartland Owners Forum (HOF) member and now Heartland Owners Club Southeast Region Director, Dave Yocum (davebennington) suggested the idea that a list be created for Heartlanders who are on the road and need assistance of some kind — where that list would include contact info for other Heartlanders who are able to render certain types of assistance.
Discussion ensued on the forum about categories and other specifics. Then, HOF member (and future PA State Chapter Leader) Dave Gruner (truknutt) suggested we call it H.O.T.E.L. for Heartland Owners Travel Emergency League/Legion/LIST, and the name really caught on!
By January of 2009, programming was complete and the first version of H.O.T.E.L. was launched.
How to Use the H.O.T.E.L.
From any page on the HOF, you can access the H.O.T.E.L. link from the "Tools" Tab (illustrated in the feature image above). Look for the "Sticky: Current H.O.T.E.L. Directory" thread (see Figure 2) and click on the blue text.
You will then see the post from Jim Beletti containing the link to download the "always current" list as a CSV spreadsheet file. (See Figure 3).
When you open the file, it will look something like this at the top (see Figure 4). If you are talented with manipulating spreadsheets, you can sort the columns to suit your needs. If not, simply scroll down to your state, then narrow down the list of providers by city and/or zip code. And speaking of zip codes, don't let the ones belonging to our Canadian friends throw you off, as they appear at the top.
The directory contains both Heartland Owners Club user names and a phone number (blurred here for privacy, but visible to you when logged into the Forum); so that you have two ways of establishing contact. In addition, there are letter codes designating the types of service(s) each member can provide:
R = Roadside service: a friendly hand
O = Overnight stay: a place to sleep
G = Garage/shop: a place to work
P = POIs: local points of interest
F = Food: grab a meal
** Expert tip: Every 3-6 months, print a copy and keep it in your glove box, or download to a local file on your portable electronic device of choice. That way you have access to the list, even if you don't have access to the internet. **
How to Open your Own H.O.T.E.L.
If you'd like to become a provider, or update your available H.O.T.E.L. service options, simply visit your HOF profile by first clicking "Settings" in the upper right corner of any Owners Forum page.
Scroll down until you see the box labeled "My Settings" and click on "Edit Profile" (see Figure 5). Scroll to the bottom of this screen and complete the fields for "H.O.T.E.L. Services" and "H.O.T.E.L. Phone Number" (see Figure 6), and then be sure to tap that "Save Changes" button when you're done.
How did I find out how to do all this? Necessity. We suffered a truck break-down just south of Dallas last month, and consulted the H.O.T.E.L. list when we thought we might need someone to pull our Bighorn 5th wheel from one RV park to another.
Although we ended up staying put for the entire 2 weeks (yes, it was a major repair), we sincerely thank users TerryH and Docburns for their sympathetic ears, and their willingness to remain on stand-by for us as we made our way over such a big speed bump.